I am not a ‘cat person’. By that I don’t mean that some mistake me for being half-man and half-cat, though Lion-O from the Thundercats was one of my childhood heroes. But having had Smokey the Cat for about a year, I am beginning to see that if cats don’t actually rule the world, they are certainly in charge of the home. At least in their own heads.
Smokey the Cat teaches me many lessons. Some which involve a certain feline dexterity that I have no intention of learning. That is what the shower is for. But more usefully, we turn to jelly. Jelly is that stuff that chunks of cat food are coated in, that Smokey is far more interested in eating than the actual food. If desperate, if she hasn’t caught enough moths and flies to complement her jelly diet, she will deem it necessary to eat the actual tuna, duck, salmon or whatever else the chunks claims to have once been waved at on their way from sheep brain to sachet.
The jelly is obviously the best. But you can’t survive on just jelly. It’s one of those lessons we teach children. You can’t just eat the nice bits and leave the peas. Cats are harder to teach. If Smokey the Cat teaches me any lessons about following Jesus, she reminds me that we all like to pick and choose the parts of our faith we like, the chunks of the Bible we like, the churches we like, and ignore the rest. I like the part of our faith that bangs on and on about grace and hope and transformation and heaven coming to earth and all that exciting and dynamic stuff; I am less inclined to feast on passages that talk more about judgements and laws and things all a little more Pharisaical. But those things are there. I prefer to preach about Jesus than Samson. But Samson is there.
We all have our jelly. The things we lap up. But a mature faith is able to take the whole plate, and somehow hold it together; or, to hold parts of it, at least recognising there are other parts but that I cannot hold them. I can see where high-church Anglo-Catholics are coming from, I can see where low-church free-church evangelicals are coming from; I can see the grace, I can see the judgement, I can see the social action, I can see the personal commitment to faith that is needed. I can see the importance of string-free relationships in the community, and the importance of evangelism and challenging people to faith.
I can see that actually the world is more nuanced than polarised opposites, however easy it might be to assume otherwise.
It’s the same in politics. We have our mantras, our favourite narratives, our ideologies, but if we take only the good bits from our politics and leave aside the flipsides we are kidding ourselves.
I wish everyone’s jelly was the same as mine. My jelly is to preach hope, to lead towards Jesus, and to hope for the best that God will understand if I have got it wrong. The rest of the food is there, and I promise I will get to it.
Unless I find a moth to eat instead.